Cairo (EGY), June 2016 - There was a mood of impatience among the ministers, businesspeople, and education experts attending this year's eLearning Africa conference in Cairo. Aware of the opportunity offered by information and communication technologies to spread education, training, and access to information throughout Africa, many have started to feel that 2063, the date the African Union has set for the realisation of its vision of a "transformed Continent", may be too long to wait. They want Africans, and particularly young people, to feel the benefits that the combination of technology and education can bring within the next ten years.
"We are not going to wait until 2063," Egypt's Minister of Communications and Information Technology, H.E. Yasser ElKady, told the Conference's opening session.
And one of Africa's leading intellectuals, Professor Ismail Serageldin, the founder and Director of the Bioblioteca Alexandrina, said, "It's the dawn of a new age! Let's embrace it. There is so much we can do for a new generation and for the whole world. We cannot let the gap between us and the advanced nations continue to grow. We must translate rhetoric into action. Rhetoric, declarations, plans, and targets are not equal to action."
Experts at the conference agreed that failure to accelerate the pace of change could have devastating consequences for Africa.
"There is a widespread awareness among educators, politicians, and businesspeople that we really have to move quickly now," says Charles Senkondo, Executive Director of Tanzania's Global Learning Agency. "We're all aware that Africa is a young continent and that soon the majority of our population will be under the age of 24. We can't afford to leave the future of 200 million young Africans to chance. Unless we invest heavily in education and training, and ensure that our young people are fully equipped to compete in the digital age, we will store up some very serious social problems for ourselves and our neighbours."
The view was echoed by Toyosi Akerele-Ogunsiji, founder of RISE Networks and a leading social entrepreneur, who addressed the attendees. "Fifty-six million Africans aged 15 to 24 haven't completed primary education", she said. "The more uneducated children Africa has, the more prisons we'll have to build."
The theme of this year's eLearning Africa was “Making Vision Reality”, and during the two days of discussions, debates, and practical demonstrations, conference participants from all over Africa focused their attention on how to turn the dream of change into reality.
"The African Union's 2063 Vision is a wonderful challenge for Africans," says Senkondo. "It has education at its heart, and we all want to make it happen. At eLearning Africa, we all focused on moving beyond ideas to implementation. There's a real willingness to collaborate and to share knowledge and experience, so that the whole of Africa can move ahead."
Many of the concerns expressed by Conference participants were shared by the African ministers who attended the eLearning Africa Ministerial Round Table, which was held under Chatham House Rules.